Friday, January 13, 2006

Where are you from?

Today a lobbyist at the capitol asked "the question": Where are you from? As a child I used to say "Miami!" but then the questioner would smile "where are you really from?" His question transported me to 3rd grade as my mind raced to answer. Does he mean geographically? Where I grew up? My ethnic roots? Is Florida the right answer? That is where I'm from, its where I was born..went to school... my first word... I speak urdu and I identify with my pakistani roots strongly but I am American and implicit in a "where are you from question" is an assumption that you certainly couldnt be from here. You know, similar to the surprised "oh wow you are so articulate." Just because I dont ooze accent doesnt mean you should stand up and clap at the odd little monkey! This morning in my surprise at this unexpected question I gave an all-in-one sort of response, "Well my parents are from Pakistan but I'm from Florida but I live in Atlanta". I guess I am an odd little monkey. *sigh*

27 comments:

estarz said...

God I hate that ?. I am from Ohio but the other day someone old lady I know was talking to someone else about someone else. Anyhow, long story short...the old lady responded "isnt everyone from Ohio" in a rather mean way!

If I had $1 for everytime that ? is asked!

Baji said...

LOL. For the longest time, I could never understand why my hubby would respond "Kansas" to that question. He is so conditioned to try and fit in and appear Americanized. I always chime in and say "Pakistan". I like to open dialogues. But, then the onslaught of questions... "And you speak such perfect English... Where are your parents..." I think hubby is smart for saying "Kansas" because no one has anything to say to that one :-)

mezba said...

Thank goodness for multiculturalism in Canada - I say I am from Toronto and everyone in Canada hates Toronto equally (coz they think we think we r the best city in Canada).

say what? said...

So the number of times parents move from places to places is directly propotional to the length of the reply of the question :))

call yourself an american :D ..

Aisha said...

Estarz, strange but my brother once got that kind of response at a nursing home where he was treating a patient. She asked him where he was from and he was like "Miami" and she said "oh yeah. you're all from miami arent you?" very sarcastically. *sigh* that's not the wrong answer you know.

Baji... i guess it could open conversation but its different when you first meet someone and the second question after you introduce yourself is where are you from. Particularly because I was born and raised here I have no accent, no difference in the way i dress etc. The difference they are seeing causing the question is the color of my skin.

Aisha said...

Mezba, the US is diverse and multicultural as well :) Again I dont get asked this question on a daily basis AT ALL. This is why the question threw me. It had been a whiel. You've never been asked?

VOX lol yes exactly!! One time I did infact do that... detailing all the cities we lived in :)

~ruthie said...

i would have just said "florida" and left it at that. it was a prying question, and rather rude, actually.

of course, i never know what to say, either.

Tee said...

It must be quite anonying when this happens your whole life. I have to admit I ask this question if I sense an accent. If no accent, I ask where the parents were from. I ask because I find it interesting - not in an odd little monkey kind of way - promise! LOL. I love ALL cultures and any opportunity I have to learn more, I soak it up like a sponge.
Just consider that not all Caucasian people ask this with malicious intent, or even out of nosiness. Some of us ask because we find it interesting to get to know people.

:)

Aisha said...

Ruthie, sometimes I say that and I love that look of disappointment.

Tee... noo I dont mean to imply I mind if someone wants to know my heritage at all! Like I said, I'm proud of it. Its different to ask specifically... like if they have an accent (in my opinion thats an understandable question) and if they dont asking "where are your parents from". This is understandable but if you just ask me "where are you from" I dont know what you mean! Which is why then I give odd responses of about fifteen minutes, lol. Like if he said "so do you live around here?" that's fine. or "so where did you grow up?" that's fine or even "so where are you originally from" even that is OK.... but a general questrion like that just confuses me because im not sure what they want to hear. Also like they say body language and tone tells you a lot too.... the person asking the question can gie off the "vibe" of being interested in getting to know you... or obsering you like you should be on exhibit :)

mystic-soul said...

We FOBs have to deal with it more than anyone, so I have 3 responses lined up:

1. In scenerio where I can get away easily or joke, - I say I am from mars.

2. In situations where I m not in a comprising situation - I say I am from 'texas - so don't mess with me.

3. Where I have to behave seriously like job interview or legal thingys - I flatly acknowledge - I am from Pakistan.

In most situations, atleast for me with accent, I think, its just innocent curiosity so I don't mind.

Champ - Love Hound said...

I 've traveled to many countries, It's not just in US, It's everywhere, Even if you visit a Poorest small country of Africa, they 'll ask you in their african accent " Sor, or yoooo Amrikian? " I think it's Human Need to communicate with other humans near him, And it's Human Nature to be attracted by alittle different lookin'. It's also part of Human Nature to search 'n' be informed.

So mostly people ask questions like this just coz it's Human Nature, BUT some people Do suck when they 're stuck in, just to know detail where we were born 'n' stuff.

I hope you 're doin' good.
God bless you....

Aisha said...

Boxin yes you're right a lot of people ask for curiosity. In Turkey we were asked on a constant basis. VERY understandable. Honestly its okay if someone asks me "where are you from?" but I honestly do have an issue if i am introduced to you and that is your first question "where are you from?" I can't explain it. Maybe too many bad experiences with it.

Knightmare said...

" I guess I am an odd little monkey. *sigh* "

Oh no you didn't Aisha!

Aisha said...

Knightmare: LOL. Wow I didnt expect that response! :)

Raheel said...

call yourself American Desi :)

Aisha said...

Mystic, lol that's funny :) Good responses. You're right most people are well meaning.

Raheel. American desi I am :) ABCD (American born CONFUSED desi:))

crazylildwing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rehtwo said...

I hate that question almost as much as I hate the one about my lack of accent when speaking English...Grrr...cute graphic for your post, though!

Knightmare said...

I was born and raised as an Indian in Saudi Arabia.
In all my time in US, half the responses were ethier India or Saudi Arabia whenever someone asked me where I was from.

Now after spending 5 years in the US, I just list all three countries and tell them to pick one. Probably because I don't consider myself as a whole Indian or a Saudi, or an American. I'm a product of all these countries.

And in those five years, no one ever said to me that I have an american accent, as a matter of fact, they all said I have an indian accent. The first thing the Aussies told me when I arrived here(Australia) is that I have an American accent. I was like WHAT?!

Aamina said...

Ahhh I know what you mean. I always get so confused when people ask me that. I still have to take a moment to think of an answert to the question.

Aisha said...

Rehtwo I think you posted about this type of topic once yourself didn't you? I thought of you when I wrote it.

Knightmare, I know a lot of desis who were born/raised in Saudi but I've never seen them having Indian accents. Typically they have American accents. I guess because they go to English speaking schools? You said it best though Knightmare, we are a product of all the countries that played their role in creating us.

Aamina: so what do you end up saying :)

Surviving said...

I get that question quite a bit as well, not due to color but the fact that I wear hijab. I don't really know what to say, my father was in the military and was stationed in another country when I was born. So I am american, however I wasn't born in the US. I have lived a number of places. Most of the time I just say from "here".

Tez said...

having lived and grown up in different places myself, i hear you loud and clear. often got confused back in the day myself. but love your positive attitude and great new answer!!

wayfarer said...

My husband goes through this all the time. It is weird. People should just be upfront and just say what they mean.

Aisha said...

Survivor perhaps thats the best type of response. Here. I need to just adopt that.

Tez: thanks:) What do you say then?

Wayfarer... I agree! Just ask the question instead of leaving it so vague you make the questioned feel so confused.

ASH said...

I get this question a lot actually....but only when I am at the masjid. :) Sort of a role reversal huh? I always say, I'm from South Carolina.....and they blink and then ask if I'm Bosnian or some such....to which I always reply, "no, my family has been in this country for about 250 years."

That always get 'em.

My wife gets this question a lot since she is Asian too.....and she always answers that she is from California and doesn't offer more. She likes to watch them squirm.

ASH said...

I ask this question of people too, and I guess I never thought about the fact that I might be making them uncomfortable. I ask because I am facinated with the world and want to know more about where they come from and their perspectives...maybe I'll be more circumspect in future.

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